Reporting Mike Binkley
BROWNTON, Minn. (WCCO) — If you ever need directions, Google maps will come in handy, but there are certain destinations that you really can’t miss.
For example, the pink farm along Highway 212 in McLeod County. From the barn to the machine shed and even the doghouse, every building on the property is at least partially pink.
It’s enough to draw strangers off the highway, asking Keith Tongen what he’s promoting. Is it breast cancer related?
“We’ve been asked if we’re into Mary Kay cosmetics,” Tongen said.
The truth is, though, no one knows how it started.
Keith’s parents, Curt and Audrey, bought the farm when he was in high school in 1975.
All they learned is that it was first painted pink in 1904, no reason given, but every new owner kept it up.
“To us it was always a landmark,” Audrey Tongen said, “even before we lived here.”
Now, Keith has kept the tradition going since he bought it from his parents in 1992.
“You hear that phrase ‘tough enough to wear pink?’” Tongen said. “Maybe that’s what I live by.”
In fact, he’d like to take it even further. But there’s a problem.
“As much as I like pink, my wife isn’t that fond of it,” Tongen said.
Jane Tongen married into all this, and she ultimately did have to embrace the pink, especially as they raised four daughters on their farm.
“Our kids got used to it, we got used to it and it becomes just part of everyday life for us,” she said.
Jane helps spruce things up around the farm now with her gardening.
“I stick to the brightest pink I can get,” she said.
And she got the final say when they built a new home.
“I wanted it pink in the worst way but my wife wouldn’t allow it,” said Keith Tongen. “So we settled for the pink shutters.”
They’ll likely never know what started this long colorful tradition, but now that they’re part of it, they’d hate to see it end.
“It’s fun to be different,” Keith said. “And it will be pink as long as we’re here.”